Behavioural Personas at Design Manchester

Design Manchester is the annual festival giving voice to the diverse community of designers across the region. For it’s fifth year this lovely city is energised by over 50 events, exhibitions and talks bringing together both established and emerging creative professionals. It’s a vibrant mix of sharing, learning, inspiration and debate that our strategic design team at Common Good enjoy being a part of!

This year we had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop on behavioural personas at the Service Design Jam Days. Fiona, Rita and myself shared our approach to creating archetypalmodels of user behaviours and how we use them in our service design projects.

We ran 4 sessions with over 40 participants throughout the day covering the key differences between “traditional personas” and the value of behavioural personas for service design. The participants had to put theory into practice with an interactive game simulating user research activities, and synthesising findings into persona models. Participants worked in groups to select relevant insights from a range of information, fill in a persona template and ideate opportunities to improve the service for the given user type. At the end each group shared their behavioural personas and their key takeaways from the workshop.

Behavioural Personas — How does it help organisations design for users?

Unlike traditional personas that focus on who the ideal customer is including various demographics, lifestyle and habits information, a behavioural persona emphasises different patterns of what users do, how they do it and why. In this sense it represents a group of users with similar ways of thinking and acting in relation to a service rather than a single individual. Behavioural personas also capture the underlying reasoning to engage with the service and what they are looking to get out of it. This guides design decisions based on objective needs rather than stereotypical assumptions that come with demographic facts such as age, gender and occupation.

We chose this particular tool for the workshop because it’s slightly controversial in the design field and we wanted to share our approach in making it useful for each project objective. Personas in design are a tool for synthesising user research and ideating solutions for people. Apart from bringing the users in the design room to create empathy, personas help inform design decisions and guide designers in creating the right thing for the right people.

How did the participants find the workshop?

“Really enjoyed your workshop the other day and will be using it 100% — probably going to add a ‘Values’ box too as most of what Service Design is about is designing value-based systems.”
“Your persona workshop has made me realise that I normally consider the users tastes and design only to that, rather than looking at what their goals are.”

We’re glad that all participants were very engaged in the workshop activities and found the content truly interesting and applicable to their work. Many of them shared how much more useful and respectful to the users the behavioural approach is in comparison to traditional ‘made-up’ personas.

How did we find the day.

The Service Design Jam was such an eclectic experience and simply pure fun! We were happy to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life involved with service design in one way or another. It was great to receive such a positive response to our design methods and also learn from other experiences. At Common Good we truly believe in empowering individuals to co-design services and the environments we all live in and our takeaway is to share more of our work with the broader community. We’re looking forward to participating in future Service Jams. Special thanks to the Co-op Digital team for organising this year’s event at Federation House and inviting us to play along!

To learn more about our approach to personas check out our earlier posts on behavioural archetypes for customer experience strategy and behavioural personas for service design.